Muslim community advocates call for resignation of Metro East community college board chair for racist online messages

Screenshots compilation courtesy of CAIR-Missouri

St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad Jr. and advocates for the Muslim community are calling on the board chair of Lewis and Clark Community College near Alton, Illinois to resign over a series of Islamophobic, racist and anti-immigrant messages he posted online.

David Heyen became the college’s board chairman on April 30. College administrators are still investigating Heyen’s posts, which they became aware of on May 1, a spokeswoman said. Images gathered by organizers confirmed that the account was Heyen’s personal Facebook page, and Heyen admitted that he shared the posts to KSDK.

“It’s ridiculous for someone who oversees the education of our communities to make comments or to share posts that blatantly disrespect Muslims and any other religion for that matter,” said Collins-Muhammad, who represents the 21st Ward in St. Louis city. “It cannot be tolerated.”

Heyen shared a post that refers to Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) as a “snake you are allowing in the country.”

Another post that Heyen shared decries the fact that the three Muslim members of Congress may have access to classified documents, and another promotes the false and Islamophobic claim that there is no terrorism in Iceland and Japan because there are no Muslims in those countries. Both Iceland and Japan have Muslim populations.

In other posts, “unvaccinated illegal alien kids in the public schools” are blamed for spreading diseases such as mumps, measles and smallpox, and the “Democratic Party” is accused of “shaming White people.”

In a statement to KSDK, Heyen said he shared the Facebook posts to “generate conversation” and claimed he was “relatively new to the concept of social media.”

“This now being used as a distraction by a small faction of people who are not happy that I have asked tough questions as a trustee and sought to hold the administration accountable and provide more transparency in the spending of our tax dollars,” Heyen stated to KSDK.

The college posted a statementon its website, stating that the college has a long history of providing an inclusive environment. “These comments and posts do not represent the culture of Lewis and Clark,” according to the college’s statement.

The Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Missouri), a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on Heyen to resign — or for the university to force his resignation.

“We urge Lewis & Clark Community College to thoroughly investigate this matter and ensure that the college remains a welcoming place for all of its students,” CAIR-Missouri Executive Director Faizan Syed said in a statement. 

Umama Khenissi, a progressive Muslim organizer from St. Louis City, said the messages and visuals are damaging to all people throughout our entire metro area.

“They create an unsettling and unsafe environment for students and workers at LCCC,” Khenissi said, “and they foster a greater culture of hate and ‘othering.’”

To show students and employees of Muslim faith that they do not stand alone, Khenissi said she is helping to organize a solidarity rally in collaboration with CAIR-Missouri, Collins-Muhammad and Umar Lee community activist, immediately prior to the next Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. They will also ask Heyen to resign.

“Most importantly, we will spend time with each other in solidarity,” she said. “Together, we are strong. We hope all people who support the Muslim community will join us.”

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